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United Press International
Los Angeles – Aug 3 – A Los Angeles newscaster was suspended without pay for two months for covering Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while they were romantically involved.
Besides KVEA-TV newscaster Mirthala Salinas’ suspension, three others at the Telemundo network were disciplined, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. KVEA General Manager Manuel Abud was reassigned and News Director Al Corral was suspended for two months without pay.
Telemundo executive Ibra Morales, who oversees the network’s 16 Spanish-language stations, was reprimanded in the matter that Telemundo President Don Browne said violated journalistic standards.
In early July, Salinas and the mayor publicly acknowledged they were involved for more than a year. Villaraigosa in June separated from his wife, Corina Villaraigosa, after 20 years of marriage.
Salinas was suspended when the relationship became public.
In a memo to staff, Browne said, “(While) the content and accuracy of KVEA’s newscasts were not compromised, our news policy standards with respect to conflict of interest were clearly violated.”
Villaraigosa said in a statement, “I regret that decisions I have made in my personal life have been a distraction for the city, and I am deeply sorry that I have let so many people down, especially my family.”

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

RNS
By Alexandra Steigrad
Washingon — Can a Mormon win the White House? It’s a question on
the minds of many voters watching former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
— not to mention Romney’s campaign itself.
But for the Romney camp, the more immediate question is whether
Romney can conquer the South, a region where evangelicals are not only
political kingmakers, but also deeply skeptical about the Mormon faith.
Romney’s first test comes in South Carolina, the veritable buckle of
the Bible Belt, which holds a Democratic primary on Jan. 29 and a
Republican primary on Feb. 2.
It’s a state that was pivotal to President Bush’s win in 2000, when
he appealed directly to Christian conservatives and Sen. John McCain
lost, in part by campaigning directly against them.
It’s also a barometer to gauge the mood of voters across the South,
and Romney knows it. He has made over 20 stops in the state since
February, and is “planning on spending a lot more time down there,”
according to Will Holley, Romney’s South Carolina communications
director.
Advisers say if Romney hopes to be a serious contender in the South,
he needs to appeal directly to conservative Christians, who make up
about one-quarter of the nation’s voters and about one-third of South
Carolina voters.
And while he needs to tackle the questions about his faith head-on,
political observers say Romney shouldn’t try to gloss over the
differences.
“Trying to sell Mormonism as an acceptable orthodox Christian faith
is a huge mistake. It’s not going to work with evangelicals,” said
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and
Religious Liberty Commission.
“Most southern voters want to know what the religious perspectives
of the candidates are, and it’s important to them. It’s not
determinative, but it’s important,” he said.
Regardless, Claire Austin, senior consultant for Romney’s Alabama
campaign, said she tells the former governor: “You talk to people, and
you relate to people and you let them know you believe in Jesus Christ
as your savior and that you have a very strong faith and moral compass.”
One of Romney’s biggest challenges may be overcoming the belief
among many conservative Christians that Mormons are not actually
Christians. For Ronnie Acker, the public affairs director for a regional
group of Mormon churches located near Birmingham, Ala., the answer is
obvious.
“A lot of people will say that we are not a Christian church, but
first you have to look at the name of the church: The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. We use the King James Version of the Bible,
the Old and the New Testament.”
But not everyone agrees.
Many evangelicals, Land said, do not consider Mormonism to be a
conventional Christian faith. Evangelicals “do not believe that Mormon
teachings fall within the guidelines of the apostolic creeds, the
teachings concerning the Trinity, for instance,” he said.
If Romney tries to play up the Mormon-as-Christian angle, Land said,
Romney won’t buy any votes. Land advised that Romney would be better off
not addressing the Christian question, but instead focusing on his
social policies on abortion and same-sex marriage, for example, which
are in line with southern values.
“There is no issue that matters more to most evangelicals than the
issue of the life of the unborn,” said Land, who believes that Romney’s
anti-abortion stance is an asset — even if the former governor had at
one time declared himself as pro-abortion rights.
Based on polls released July 30 from the New Hampshire-based
American Research Group, Romney trailed other leading candidates, at 7
percent, in South Carolina. In Alabama, which holds a GOP primary (with
17 other states) on Feb. 5, Romney trailed other major candidates, at 12
percent, in a University of South Alabama/Mobile Register poll last
spring.
Meanwhile, the American Research Group poll shows Romney in a
neck-and-neck race with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Iowa,
both with about 21 percent. The poll also shows Romney tied with
Giuliani (about 26 percent) in New Hampshire.
Aside from highlighting Romney’s record, Land urged Romney to tackle
the Mormon question like John F. Kennedy did when he was speaking about
his Catholicism during his successful presidential run in 1960.
Just as Kennedy assured Americans that he wasn’t the Catholic
candidate for president, but instead the Democratic candidate, Romney
needs to tell the nation he isn’t the Mormon candidate, but the
Republican candidate, Land said.
John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public
Life and an expert on religion and politics, said there still is a
chance that southern evangelical will vote for Romney.
“Romney faces a challenge in the South,” he said. “Whether he can
overcome it remains to be seen. It’s still very early.”
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of
this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written
permission.

RNS
by Daniel Burke
The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination will again face
the divisive issue of sexuality when it considers resolutions on gay
clergy and same-sex blessings at its biennial assembly in Chicago next
week (Aug. 8-12).
After the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted at its
last Churchwide Assembly in 2005 to maintain church rules that ban
noncelibate gay and lesbian ministers, many thought the issue would be
tabled until a comprehensive study on sexuality was completed in 2009.
But 22 of the ELCA’s 65 regional synods have asked the church to
again address standards for gay clergy this year, pushing for change
within the 5 million-member denomination.
About half of the 125 proposed resolutions to be debated at the
assembly address sexuality, standards and discipline for sexual conduct
of clergy and same-sex blessings. “The battle lines are being drawn,”
said one advocate, while ELCA leaders are pleading for comity amid the
contentious debate.
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who is expected to be be re-elected
for a second six-year term in Chicago, is among those who say the church
should wait for the 2009 study on sexuality, called a “social
statement,” before taking action.
“The statement on human sexuality is intended to bring all of us
into the conversation in the context of Scripture, our tradition and the
context in which we live our lives to develop a bedrock social statement
upon which then we will look at the policies and practices of this
church and see whether they reflect that,” Hanson said at a conference
call with reporters July 26.
However, Hanson said he expects some of the 1,071 voting members of
the assembly will to push for immediate change.
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling of Atlanta, who was defrocked in July
after he told his bishop he was in a noncelibate homosexual
relationship, is among those hoping for a change in policy.
Schmeling and a group of 20 members from St. John’s Lutheran Church
in Atlanta will be in Chicago “to try to put a face on the issue of
policy,” he said, though he is not a voting member of the assembly.
The pro-gay group Lutherans Concerned/North America will bring more
than 100 volunteers to conduct a service and exhibitions devoted to
telling the stories of lesbian and gay clergy, said spokesman Phil
Soucy.
“In 2005, the church voted that we would journey together faithfully
in the midst of disagreement, and I think we can’t do that if we’re
throwing people out of the conversation,” Schmeling said.
Conservative Lutherans were somewhat caught off guard by the surge
to change church rules this year, said the Rev. Craig Werling, pastor of
the American Evangelical Lutheran Church in Milbank, S.D.
“Quite honestly, we didn’t expect to have to fight that in 2007,”
said Werling, who is a member of Lutheran Churches of the Common
Confession, a traditionalist group that opposes gay clergy on scriptural
grounds.
“We have a serious and fundamental disagreement with them,” Werling
said. “We’re trying to do that in a way that’s loving, but we definitely
want to defend what we believe is right.”
At the 2005 ELCA assembly, advocates for changing rules on gay
clergy garnered 490 votes, falling well short of the two-thirds majority
needed for a constitutional amendment. But the resolutions this year may
not require a constitutional change and could possibly be passed by a
simple majority, said ELCA spokesman John Brooks.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of
this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written
permission.

RNS
by Michelle Rindels
As Americans get older, their confidence in an afterlife
increases, according to a recent survey of people over 50 conducted by
the AARP, the advocacy group for seniors.
Seventy-three percent of older people believe in life after death,
and two-thirds of those believers say that confidence has grown with
age, according to the survey.
But while 86 percent of respondents say there is a heaven (70
percent believe in hell), they were split on what it looks like and if
humans go there. Forty percent of those who believe say heaven is a
place, while 47 percent think heaven is a “state of being.”
“Americans see life after death as a very dynamic thing,” said Alan
F. Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College, in the AARP
article. “You don’t really hear about angels and wings, sitting on
clouds playing melodies. … They talk about humor in the afterlife,
continuing education, unifying families — like a retirement without
financial needs.”
While most people believe that heaven exists, and about nine in 10
of them say they’ll end up there, they are less sure about others.
People who believe in heaven say an average of 64 percent of others will
get there, too.
Other findings in the survey:
— Women are more likely to believe in an afterlife (80 percent)
than men (64 percent).
— Income matters: Of those who believe in an afterlife, 90 percent
of those earning $25,000 or less believe in heaven, compared to just 78
percent of people with an income of $75,000 and above.
— 29 percent of those who believe in a heaven think one must
“believe in Jesus Christ” to enter. Twenty-five percent believe “good
people” go to heaven, and 10 percent think everyone is admitted.
The survey was conducted by telephone between June 29 and July 10.
The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service